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Daily Inspiration: Meet Sadie Sullivan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sadie Sullivan.

Hi Sadie, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
Not everyone gets to grow up with a large family as uniquely connected as mine are. Located just east of downtown Seattle, surrounded by an abundance of trees and wildlife is Beaver Lake, where my mother’s entire family lived. I have very fond memories of taking the bus home from school and being dropped off at my aunt or uncle’s house to eat their junk food and play with my cousins before getting a call from my father to come home. Most months all 26 of us, including my parents and my two brothers, would cram into one of our homes to celebrate whoever’s birthday recently passed. It wasn’t until I moved away to college that I realized how lucky I had it. My family is my support system.

Most days you would find a medical journal sitting out on our kitchen counter, open to a nasty image of a swollen eye or a gross broken bone. This would make more sense if I told you my mother was a pediatrician. She has always taught me that my love is my strength, and as a woman, I should keep fighting for who I am, even when people knock me down. She is the reason I would eventually combine my love for art and science and I owe my entire upcoming series of work to her.

Around the beginning of my sophomore year, I recall choosing art as my major, deciding against graphic design because I refused to sit inside on a computer all day. I laugh at this now knowing I am graduating in four months with my MFA in graphic design. But art was my calling and I still think I made the right choice. My path was just a little different. Eventually, I would find that love for science and incorporate it into my drawings. I remember one semester I had to take a biology class and found memorizing the information to be too difficult, so I started drawing out my notes and processes of meiosis and mitosis. One day in class, one of my friends turned to me and said “Sadie, you’ve got to start selling your biology notes as art pieces.” I still have those notes in a binder and sometimes pull them out to use as a reference.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
“If you do not take tests well, you may consider dropping my class.” These were the first words my Sociology Professor said at the beginning of the quarter. Instant fear and stress rushed to my head. I took a deep breath to calm my nerves. I was sitting alone in a white room with white walls and a long brown table. My school had given me the privilege of taking my Sociology test in an empty classroom because I have a 504 plan, which provides accommodations for my learning disability. This was a constant battle I had to face. At age eight, my parents had me tested for a learning disability and I was diagnosed with an Auditory Processing Disorder. This means that the brain does not recognize the subtle differences between sound in words when information is picked up by the ears and travels to the brain. The information is scrambled and thus not always clear.

I had tutors in every subject and spent many of my hours outside of the classroom studying. Thankfully I could use my drawing skills to create my own visual study guides and draw out connections to key vocabulary. But it made me feel strange like something was wrong with me and I couldn’t keep up with the “normal.”

Over time my visual communication skills began to improve and I found my own way to adapt and blend in with the other people. The drive to not fail was so important. Although I have grown past many of the issues I had in high school and college, I still find moments where I struggle to make connections. I openly talk about my learning difference so many of my peers and professors know when they need to rephrase a question or simply pull out a paper and draw a diagram. Now days I am thankful I think a little differently than others.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
In college, I was formally trained in traditional drawing but took a more experimental dip in my art career when I began paper cutting, tapestry weaving, and eventually teaching myself medical illustration. As an artist, I love working with different materials but felt that I still didn’t have a life’s purpose. After taking a few years off from college, I decided to pursue a degree in graphic design. Why? Because I wanted a job and one that I would love, even if it meant working on the computer all day. When I arrived at Ohio University, I continued my work with medical illustration using digital software on the iPad. I started working for the Communication Sciences and Disorders department, to create hundreds of images for a group of scientists studying children with learning disabilities and their comprehension abilities. Every other week you will find me drawing in the cadaver labs with the medical staff and students. They even give me a white lab coat that I stuff with charcoal, blending sticks, and pens. I’ve also had the pleasure of teaching many art and design classes here at Ohio University and working to help these amazing students find what they love to do.

In the meantime, I am working toward completing a series of work for my upcoming exhibition, With Due Respect. The work seeks to reinforce discourse in support of a social movement highlighting the perpetuation of gender discrimination and suppression in the workforce. Through digitally illustrated portraits, complemented by narratives of women who have dealt with this struggle in the past, my work will focus on remarkable females whose work was forgotten or stolen by their male counterparts, specifically in the STEM field and importantly, making these once invisible women, visible.

The work will extend the conversation of women who have been fearful of speaking up and have isolated themselves due to years of being silenced by society and will force one to question why this is still occurring today. The work will serve to further ignite something that has been suppressed for centuries and explore this idea further: why have women, specifically working in the STEM field, been written out of history and how does that impact our perception?

What’s next?
As of now, I am working on completing my upcoming exhibition, With Due Respect, which will run from March 15-19th, 2022 in Trisolini Gallery at Ohio University.

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